herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

No free GP care for children and elderly this year, says Varadker

health Minister Leo Varadker has admitted he does not know when free GP care will be available for children and the elderly - despite promises by his predecessor James Reilly that it would be in place by the end of this year.

The newly-appointed minister also said the timeframe for reform of the health service set by Reilly was "overambitious at the start".

"My inclination on health reforms is to do it in a step-wise fashion and in a logical way," he said.

Mr Varadker said it would not be possible to get rid of the Health Service Executive (HSE) structure this year but he wants to concentrate on reforms that will improve GP practices and building and developing hospital groups as his priorities.

On promised free GP care for children under six and the over-70s, he said: "We have the legislation through for the under 6s and we'll have the legislation through for the over 70s this autumn.

"We're now in discussion with the Irish Medical Organisation and I would hope to get agreement with them sooner rather than later.

"I don't want to put a deadline on it because I can't," he added.

Speaking on RTE's Morning Ireland, the Minister said he hoped that changing the way healthcare is provided, with people who use GPs the most and people with chronic diseases being able to access GPs, would mean less people having to go to hospital for treatment which in turn would mean savings.

Meanwhile, Ireland's second biggest health insurer has welcomed the offer of a Government tax and levy freeze in return for a freeze on premium prices, but warned it won't replace much needed reform of the crisis-hit sector.

Laya healthcare managing director Donal Clancy said his firm supported anything that helped control costs, but stressed sector required far more than a simple levy and price moratorium.

Minister Varadker is to write to all health insurers detailing the offer of a freeze of up to two years on all Government levies and tax relief schemes in return for suspending all healthcare package price hikes for the same period.

hnews@herald.ie

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